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What a shame

Manny Pacquiao goes down in history as the first incumbent senator to win a title in any sport. He will most likely be the only senator of any country to do so—not because no other incumbent senator anywhere is athletic enough to win a sports title, but because no other member of that “august” body will disrobe down to his shorts before thousands of screaming fans to fight for prize money.

“I want to be a good example to people who love sports. The way you work in this profession [sets] an example to the young generation aiming to become champion,” Pacquiao told the Inquirer last week.

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I cite Pacquiao as an example to graduate students writing their thesis under my advisory. When they look like they are about ready to give up because I keep pushing them to collect more empirical data and to polish their composition, I tell them to emulate him. I point out the extremely punishing conditioning exercises he does when preparing for a fight. That is why he is the champion in eight divisions, I tell the students. One student, after defending her thesis successfully, wrote me, “If I am your Manny Pacquiao, you are my Freddie Roach.”

But I do not cite Pacquiao as an example for people who aspire for public office. The way he regards his present position in the government should not be set as an example to the young generation aiming to become members of Congress.

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In 2014 he was present in the House for just four days, yet he collected his full salary and allowances, as did his staff. When asked about his attendance record, his response was: “I don’t just sit around making laws, like others.” It is obvious he did not know what a legislator’s duties are.

“It’s amazing that he made it here,” said Tim Cone, coach of the Purefoods Star Hotshots basketball team after beating Pacquiao and his Kia Sorento team mates. “If that happened to any of us, we’d lay down for three months. But he showed up tonight. What a man!” Cone gushed.

That was because Pacquiao came to the PBA basketball game straight from a big fight abroad. I say, “What a disappointment!” because he should have returned to the House where he was the representative of the lone district of Sarangani. After all, he is only a big joke of a basketball player.

When Purefoods import Daniel Orton called Pacquiao such, general manager Rene Pardo kicked Orton out of the team and sent him packing home. “Everyone is angry at [Orton]…” Pardo said. “It is like he went to the United States and insulted the name of Martin Luther King.” It is Pardo who insulted King, for comparing Pacquiao to the champion of civil rights.

King fought for not only the civil rights but also the human rights of African Americans, resulting in a better life for them and changing US society altogether. Popular for his crusade for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War, he was urged to seek the US presidency in 1968. But he declined because he was uneasy with the ambiguities of electoral politics in all its forms.

Pacquiao was no more than a boxing champion when he first sought a seat in the House. He was elected by the adoring masa, who constitute the overwhelming majority of voters, simply because he was a world boxing champion eight times over, despite his lack of formal education and the experience necessary for the position he sought. He didn’t even know what he was supposed to do as congressman.

He announced his retirement from boxing after his victory over Timothy Bradley last April, supposedly to focus on his duties as a lawmaker. Still he resumed his boxing career because, he said, boxing is his passion. But according to American boxing analyst Sam Cooper, Pacquiao’s comeback “screams of someone returning for a paycheck and no other reason.”

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Now he is known as the only sitting senator in all history to win a boxing title. But what a shame to the country that one of its senators should take leave from his duties so he could train for a boxing bout for the sake of prize money.

Oscar P. Lagman Jr. has been a keen observer of Philippine politics since the 1950s.

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TAGS: Boxing, Manny Pacquiao, politics, senator
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